Monday, June 27, 2011

Circles within Circles

May 5, 2010
I circumambulated the parking lot on Passyunk. Walking around the perimeter. With my spirit cane. Observing. Attending. I had no plan in mind. Was not sure whether I would walk the circle once or more than once. I noticed so much the first time, so many details… things… that I was drawn to beginning again. Splatters of paint beneath the mural. Oil stains. Cigarette butts. Shadows cast by pebbles. It was like flying—looking down over the earth from many miles up. With the first repetition I was impressed by how much was new. What I’d not seen the first time. The same for the second circle. There was also now repetition—though it wasn’t quite, as what I’d seen before was companion to newly observed details, and so existed in changed patterns, and being overlaid with memory, I too felt I had been changed. The first three times I was aware of number. This was my first time around, I heard myself say in mind, this is the second… this is the third. Then the numbers fell away. When I was finished I could not tell you how many times I circled the lot. I would guess—more than 12, fewer than 20. Around the edge of the parking lot. At some point I reversed my direction. Would this be like unwinding, I wondered? But it wasn’t at all. More and more I would see what was familiar from before… other things would be lost to memory and seen as though for the first time. Familiarity seemed to have the power to erase some things and heighten attention to things I’d not noticed before. There was a stone lying near the corner of a square of concrete. I’d seen it several times. Missed it several times—when I felt a weak impulse to kick it… or nudge it with my stick. It was the first time I’d felt a wish to intervene—to bring about change. This seemed strange to me, the desire to experience agency. So much was happening by letting it go. I could tell how that alters the mind.--letting go, or acting. Different minds. I picked it up. I carried that stone with me for many yards after… thinking about it, remembering, wondering about this business of agency. What did I miss because of that? The more we do, the less we see, the less we are present in the world.

                                 Walk      Remember      Record
June 2011
It was like that, I thought. Everyday I sat in the same room. The same view from the window. The West Hills. My sister slept. Nurses & doctors & technicians came and went. I opened my laptop and checked email. Sometimes I read. I played chess on line. I took the elevator to the café & sometimes a bagel, sometimes soup. They wrote orders on the glass on the door to the bathroom. Erased them. Wrote new orders. The names of the nurses changed as their shifts ended & began. Once an hour they opened the valves on the catheters to drain the spinal fluid. 10 cc every hour. More and she would have terrible headaches. Less and she would lapse into confusion. This is my sister, I told myself.. How strange that I felt nothing. And then I would -- remember something. Water striders on the surface of Bass Lake. And it would wash over me, pull me under. & then I would look out the window. A crow would fly past. She would wake & I would stand beside the bed and talk in a loud voice, slowly, carefull to enunciate each word. It gave me pleasure. When I spoke she seldom asked me to repeat as she did with others. Repetition and change. Walking around the parking lot. Picking up a stone. A feather from a crow to put in my hat. This is not vanity. This is not magic. This is.

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